Biology senior interns at forensic crime lab

October 23, 2012

By Emily Laidley ’14

Call it a “C.S.I. summer.”

Senior Brienna McDonald spent more than two hundred hours this summer interning at the Illinois State Police Crime Lab in Morton, Ill. The biology major worked alongside forensic scientists and crime scene investigators in the facility’s four laboratories. Each space deals with a different type of evidence ranging from firearms to DNA to drug chemistry and biology.

The crime lab provides law enforcement officials throughout central Illinois with valuable testing and analysis of evidence collected by officers and, during her internship, McDonald took an active role in identifying biology evidence that passed through the lab. Working with a microscope, she examined and identified various slides as well as attended autopsies.

“The first couple of days I did it, I kept getting so lost. But then by the end, the scientist in the biology lab would just give me a bunch of slides and I would just work with them,” she said. “I would identify the sperm cells and body fluids. And that ended up being one of my favorite parts of the whole internship.”

McDonald said landing the internship was no open and shut case.

“I went to the lab’s website and I called someone,” she recalled. “He said it was really competitive so I thought ‘Well maybe I won’t do it.’ But he said, ‘Don’t rule yourself out.’ So I decided to try.”

McDonald explained that at first she was only “tentatively accepted” for the job and before she could start she would have to pass an extensive background check, polygraph test and drug test. When she was finally cleared for work, she was given total access to the labs.

“I had a swipe card and it was really amazing because they don’t even give tours of the labs anymore,” she said.

Since completing the internship, McDonald has decided to pursue a career in forensics. Her advice to other students seeking summer internships is to never count themselves out before even applying for a position.

McDonald ultimately credited her professors at Bradley for preparing her to handle the kind of important forensic work that take place at the crime lab.

“The professors here at Bradley are just very helpful and understanding,” she said. “They would see me in the halls and ask me if I had heard anything yet. They were so excited for me.”